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Two things that have proven a little difficult for the life, health and financial planing industries to wrap its collective head around is a) how to make their products and services appeal to the under-40 crowd, and b) how to make the best use of things like social media and new media, such as videos, podcasts and the like.

For many, the answer is to simply ignore this challenge and focus on markets and clients they already know how to interact with. To some degree, this is understandable. As i understand it, the average age of a L/H insurance agent is 55 and getting older. As the Baby Boom enters retirement age itself, there is a fairly compelling reason for a lot of veteran agents and advisors out there to simply stick with what they know for the rest of their career. After all, things can’t change so quickly that one’s business model will be obsolete within the next 10 years, right?

Wrong. At least, that’s what anybody (myself included) who is even a little bit interested in new media and social media will tell you. Using National Underwriter Life and Health as an example, I can tell you that we have an unending stream of invites to join our LinkedIn group, and we get a fair bit of traction on FaceBook, Twitter and discussions generated by our own online fora. And this is despite the fact that none of us on NUL really pay as much attention to these things as we really ought to. (And let me be clear: I am the worst offender in this regard.)

But while everybody figures out how to make the best use of their social media profile (whether individually or as a company), one component not to overlook is online video. Increasingly, video links are becoming choice content as social media posts themselves, just as YouTube channels are bona fide media outlets in their own right. On this front, it pays to be a little less proprietary, as cross-linking and cross-subscribing can yield a whole lot of additional traffic. Succeeding at YouTube appears to be a game of being willing to be generous with your own content so that you can receive it back in kind. For close-knit communities bound by a common interest (firearms enthusiasts are an interesting example), one’s personal channel can become a fairly well-established presence in not a whole lot of time and without a whole lot of resources. It makes me wonder what an industry as well-resourced as the insurance industry can accomplish.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d share with you some interesting examples of video use across the industry. First things first: If you have not already checked out AXA Equitable’s YouTube channel, do. I got turned on to this when I was alerted to their Retirement Reality Show series, which is a neat and refreshing look at how real people look at real retirement scenarios. I particularly enjoyed the episode at the Asbury Park boardwalk, but that might have something to do with the fact that I live about five minutes away from it. Their most recent update, Women on the Street, is good viewing, too.

Another good source of video content is the Insurance Information Institute. I must be honest here: I have always been a fan of this organization, and under Bill Hartwig’s leadership, it has turned from a modest stat house into a very media-savvy source of public information for an industry that can easily enshroud itself in actuarial mystery just by the sheer mass of data it produces. Call it hiding in plain sight by accident, if you will. Regardless, the III is always a great source of information for the lay person, and their YouTube videos are no exception. The III has produced nearly 150 of them, including this handy little bit about introducing annuities to the average guy on the street. Good educational stuff, this.

Education isn’t the only venue in which online video makes an impact. Few in this audience will stand up and cheer unreservedly for what health care reform has one, but take a look at this video from the White House explaining it. Whether you feel the video is accurate or not, try to put politics aside for a moment and let us appreciate the manner in which the White House reached out to the public on this. Whether you see this as educational or merely a good way to build up public support, one has to wonder how much more successful the life/health industry’s efforts on Capitol Hill would be if they had a cool, engaging, easily portable video strategy to put in front of people to get their point across. This industry has never had the easiest time making regulatory elevator pitches, but just imagine how much further certain doors would open if advocates could simply say, “Here, let me shoot you a link.”

And since it’s a Friday, let me finish my throwing you a link to Z is for Zombie, a fan movie I edited and published myself earlier today. This movie has nothing to do with L/H business (unless you see an undead apocalypse as precisely the kind of thing that will tank every book of health reinsurance business at once), but I’m putting it here to point out that these days, just about anybody with access to basic video editing software, a camera or stock footage of any kind, a blog or YouTube account and a working internet connection can be publishing video. It really is not that hard, and if it is something you want to dedicate some resources to, you might be surprised what kind of impact you can make with your audience, your shareholders, your clients and your critics. It’s something I intend to explore much more fully with National Underwriter. I hope to see many of you do the same. See you on the small screen.